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Author Topic:   Does Science Truly Represent Reality?
GDR
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Posts: 5060
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
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Message 1 of 61 (414843)
08-06-2007 3:58 PM


As much as I love reading about things scientific I have a basic problem with treating science as any sort of fundamental truth.

Let us start with the idea that the universe is about 14 billion years old. We live on a planet that spins at a certain rate, rotates around the sun at a certain rate, is part of a solar system moving at a certain rate and is part of a galaxy that is presumably moving at a certain rate. We have no idea as to what our absolute velocity is or to what standard we could measure that velocity against.

We know that time decreases as velocity increases. If our velocity increased to light speed we would say that the universe just is and we would have no concept of time or change. What if our velocity within the universe would be zero then would time be infinite, and what would be the ramifications of that?

Let’s look at evolution. We have evolved from single celled life forms, (with or without God), into beings with consciousness and with 5 basic senses. With these 5 senses we perceive the universe in a particular way. What if we had evolved with different senses or with fewer senses? We have vision which is dependent on photons to perceive the universe in a specific way. What if we had a sense that instead of using photons, required gravitons to perceive the universe. Presumably that would give us a different reality.

It appears that everything that we perceive as matter is made up of particles which are nothing but points of energy. (Not being a scientist I’m out on a limb there, but even if that is not correct I think the point is valid anyway.) Through our consciousness we perceive and interpret these particles in a particular way, but our perceived reality of matter is not at all what it seems. This desk seems solid enough.

My point is that science is dependent on our particular set of senses, and our particular place in the universe to come to its conclusions. All then that science can say is that this is how we perceive things to be, but we really have no idea of how our perception of things compares with reality. Maybe with different senses we would perceive dark matter and not visible matter. Maybe if we had additional senses we would perceive a whole other world out there that we don’t even know exists.

In the end science is another level of faith. Science is required to have faith that our perception of things represents reality but there is no empirical proof that this is actually so.

I suggest one of the science forums so that it doesn't get bogged down in a religious discussion. I definitely am not advocating for a 6000 year old world, which I don't believe in, and this has nothing to do with My Christian faith. I see this as being more philosophical than anything else.


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

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AdminNosy
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Message 2 of 61 (414844)
08-06-2007 4:02 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 3 of 61 (414851)
08-06-2007 4:38 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by GDR
08-06-2007 3:58 PM


Does Science Truly Represent Reality?

If it doesn't, nothing does.

We have evolved from single celled life forms, (with or without God), into beings with consciousness and with 5 basic senses.

We have a few more than five, I'm just saying, but I grasp your basic point.

But consider that each of those senses work the same way - by detecting physical changes caused by the outside world. Reality isn't something that's "out there"; it's in your eyes and ears and your skin. A photon comes right into your eye to be seen. Sound waves enter right into your eardrum to be detected by your ears. When you touch something, it's right there on your skin.

Even the brain itself - your very consciousness, your self - is right there in reality; it's not insulated from it. Your ability to be yourself comes from the fact that the cells in your brain are operating according to the same laws of physics and chemistry that we observe in reality.

So an argument that we're somehow insulated from - separate from - reality is probably a non-starter. We're able to perceive reality because we're in reality. Where else would we be?

Maybe if we had additional senses we would perceive a whole other world out there that we don’t even know exists.

We do have such senses, thanks to technology, and we have used them to see other worlds out there - the world of the atom, for instance, or the enormous universe that we inhabit.

In the end science is another level of faith. Science is required to have faith that our perception of things represents reality but there is no empirical proof that this is actually so.

You have a funny definition of "faith." Faith is when you believe in something despite all the evidence that you're wrong. Faith is absolute and unquestioned; to take something on faith is to believe it no matter what you learn or what you find out. In faith, if you change your mind in response to new evidence, you're considered to have lost faith.

In science, the things we believe to be true about the universe are constantly set against new observations; and when we accrue observations that suggest that we're wrong, we abandon the old models in favor of new ones.

Is that faith? To change one's mind at the slightest indication that one is wrong? Science is highly distrustful of theory, of model - even of observation, because we know people can fabricate claims of observation. I don't see that there could possibly be any endeavor so faithless as science, where long-cherished belief is abandoned at the slightest evidentiary wrinkle.

Someone who walked into church with the same attitude scientists have about theory - "I'll believe in your God for now, but if the mosque down the street makes better pancakes, I'm totally becoming Muslim" - would be accused of being faithless. Feckless. How then can we say that science requires faith?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by GDR, posted 08-06-2007 3:58 PM GDR has responded

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Percy
Member
Posts: 19255
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 4 of 61 (414852)
08-06-2007 4:41 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by GDR
08-06-2007 3:58 PM


GDR writes:

As much as I love reading about things scientific I have a basic problem with treating science as any sort of fundamental truth.

There's a good reason you don't feel comfortable treating science as a fundamental truth. It's because science is not a fundamental truth. Science is a way of finding out things about the universe that have a good chance of being true.

We have no idea as to what our absolute velocity is or to what standard we could measure that velocity against.

Relativity says there's no such thing as absolute velocity.

Science is required to have faith that our perception of things represents reality but there is no empirical proof that this is actually so.

Only if what we see, hear, feel, taste and smell is not empirical evidence of reality could this be true. In other words, of course science studies reality. What we perceive with our senses is the very definition of reality.

You could make Plato style arguments about shadows on a wall, but that's just philosophical masturbation and has nothing to do with the actual practice of science.

--Percy


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GDR
Member
Posts: 5060
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 5 of 61 (414858)
08-06-2007 5:26 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by crashfrog
08-06-2007 4:38 PM


crashfrog writes:

So an argument that we're somehow insulated from - separate from - reality is probably a non-starter. We're able to perceive reality because we're in reality. Where else would we be?

It seems to me that reality is what we perceive it to be with the senses that we have acquired. Science has already shown us that how we perceive things with basic senses does not represent the basic reality as seen by modern science. As I said, in looking at my desk I would never perceive that the reality is that it is really nothing of nothing but dimensionless, (or at least near dimensionless particles) and empty space.

However even science is in the final analysis still dependent on our senses in addition to our wisdom.

crashfrog writes:

We do have such senses, thanks to technology, and we have used them to see other worlds out there - the world of the atom, for instance, or the enormous universe that we inhabit.

What other senses have we used? We have certainly been able to enhance our senses with things like telescopes but we still can't see or touch dark matter for example.

crashfrog writes:

Is that faith? To change one's mind at the slightest indication that one is wrong? Science is highly distrustful of theory, of model - even of observation, because we know people can fabricate claims of observation. I don't see that there could possibly be any endeavor so faithless as science, where long-cherished belief is abandoned at the slightest evidentiary wrinkle.

One of the great strengths of science is that it does change with new discoveries. Science though requires faith that our perception of things is the only way that those same things can be perceived and thus represent the only reality that there is.


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

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Replies to this message:
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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6856
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.9


Message 6 of 61 (414859)
08-06-2007 5:27 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by GDR
08-06-2007 3:58 PM


All then that science can say is that this is how we perceive things to be, but we really have no idea of how our perception of things compares with reality.

How is this different in a non-scientific context? All anyone knows about the world is what they perceive through their senses. How science proceeds is really no different than the way you avoid bumping your "knee" into the "coffee table" regardless what a knee really is, what a coffee table is, and what it means to bump one into the other. But you've recognized certain patterns in your sensory perception of the world, and you have a model into which to fit those patterns that allow you to predict that if you "knee" bumps into the "coffee table" you will have an unpleasant experience. Pretty much the same as what a scientist does.


I've done everything the Bible says, even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff! -- Ned Flanders

This message is a reply to:
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GDR
Member
Posts: 5060
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 7 of 61 (414861)
08-06-2007 5:45 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Percy
08-06-2007 4:41 PM


Percy writes:

There's a good reason you don't feel comfortable treating science as a fundamental truth. It's because science is not a fundamental truth. Science is a way of finding out things about the universe that have a good chance of being true.

Maybe the best way of putting is by asking the question: do the underlying assumptions of science represent reality.

Percy writes:

Relativity says there's no such thing as absolute velocity.


Exactly my point. We can only say that the we perceive the world to be 14 or so billion years old, but it we lived in another galaxy we might very well perceive the universe as being much older or much younger depending on our velocity compared to ourselves. In the end there is no absolute answer as to how old the universe is.

Percy writes:

What we perceive with our senses is the very definition of reality.

How do we know that? Our senses allow us to perceive our existence but if we had different senses would we perceive a very different world?

One of the things that got me thinking about this is the story of Oscar the cat in the New England Journal of Medicine.

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/357/4/328

This cat knows when someone is about to die. It seems to me that this cat has some sense that we don't know about that enables it to sense when a person is near death. What reality is this cat perceiving that we know nothing about?


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

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GDR
Member
Posts: 5060
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 8 of 61 (414863)
08-06-2007 5:58 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Chiroptera
08-06-2007 5:27 PM


Chiroptera writes:

How is this different in a non-scientific context? All anyone knows about the world is what they perceive through their senses. How science proceeds is really no different than the way you avoid bumping your "knee" into the "coffee table" regardless what a knee really is, what a coffee table is, and what it means to bump one into the other. But you've recognized certain patterns in your sensory perception of the world, and you have a model into which to fit those patterns that allow you to predict that if you "knee" bumps into the "coffee table" you will have an unpleasant experience. Pretty much the same as what a scientist does.

Don't get me wrong. Scientists have done an incredible job of discovering basic truths of the universe that our in accordance with our perception of things.

On the other hand you hear leading scientists saying things like time and even distance are illusions and that consciousness is a (or even the) fundamental constituency of the universe. How are we to take that and what does it mean for our perception of things?


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

This message is a reply to:
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crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 9 of 61 (414864)
08-06-2007 6:04 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by GDR
08-06-2007 5:26 PM


As I said, in looking at my desk I would never perceive that the reality is that it is really nothing of nothing but dimensionless, (or at least near dimensionless particles) and empty space.

Sure. But not because your senses are lying to you with fictitious inputs; just because your senses have certain limitations. That you can't hear the color blue, for instance, is not evidence that your sense of hearing doesn't actually have anything to do with reality.

What other senses have we used?

Well, for instance, a magnetic sense that tells you where north is.

But really any time you're looking at a pressure gauge, or a radiation meter, or a spectrum analyzer, you're using a tool that extends your senses. That's the purpose of such technology.

Science though requires faith that our perception of things is the only way that those same things can be perceived and thus represent the only reality that there is.

I don't see that science requires that at all. Consider that all physicists currently accept that both general relativity and quantum mechanics are accurate models of the universe, yet those are two models that are completely inconsistent with each other. That's two very different ways of looking at things, so clearly science makes no demand that one or another model be accepted as "the only way."


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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6856
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.9


Message 10 of 61 (414866)
08-06-2007 6:12 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by GDR
08-06-2007 5:58 PM


On the other hand you hear leading scientists saying things like time and even distance are illusions and that consciousness is a (or even the) fundamental constituency of the universe.

I don't know how to take any of this since I have no idea what any of this is supposed to mean. It certainly doesn't have much to do with science, so I wouldn't worry too much about it.


I've done everything the Bible says, even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff! -- Ned Flanders

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GDR
Member
Posts: 5060
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 11 of 61 (414874)
08-06-2007 7:28 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by crashfrog
08-06-2007 6:04 PM


crashfrog writes:

Consider that all physicists currently accept that both general relativity and quantum mechanics are accurate models of the universe, yet those are two models that are completely inconsistent with each other. That's two very different ways of looking at things, so clearly science makes no demand that one or another model be accepted as "the only way."

With human wisdom we interpret the world through our 5 basic senses making use of instruments that we have designed to enhance our basic senses. GR and QM are the current theories that may change dramatically with new discoveries but regardless we can only perceive things with the senses that we have.

I realize that there is no answer as we have no way of knowing if there are other ways of perceiving the universe --- or not. Scientists postulate other dimensions, other universes, dark matter, dark energy etc. If we had different senses would we be able to perceive any of those? If vision was not a part of our experience we would have no way of knowing what vision is or even be able to contemplate it. It seems to me as evidenced by Oscar the Cat that there is stuff going on that we know nothing about as we don't know what we don't know.


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

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Doddy
Member (Idle past 4294 days)
Posts: 563
From: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 01-04-2007


Message 12 of 61 (414911)
08-06-2007 10:03 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by GDR
08-06-2007 5:45 PM


GDR writes:

This cat knows when someone is about to die.


No, you can't conclude that from what was given in the story. What is his hit rate? Sure, he may have been present at 25 deaths, but how many deaths did he miss, and how many times did he curl up next to someone who didn't die? This information needs to be known before we can conclude an effect.

I think this is a clear case of confirmation bias, and I think the NEMJ should have pointed that out. I doubt people remember that the cat was there when the person lives, and I doubt they think of the cat if the cat wasn't there when a person dies. They only remember the hits, and forget the misses.

GDR writes:

It seems to me that this cat has some sense that we don't know about that enables it to sense when a person is near death.


More likely, it is using the senses we do know about in a way that we don't know specifically. For example, it could be smelling ketone bodies produced as tissues break-down. Seems the author of that story has a similar idea, considering how many times "sniffs the air" was mentioned.

But I should have to be convinced that there is actually a real effect before I look into the mechanisms.

Edited by Doddy, : punctuation


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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6856
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.9


Message 13 of 61 (414913)
08-06-2007 10:07 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Doddy
08-06-2007 10:03 PM


And don't forget a possible placebo effect.

"Oh shit! It's that damn cat! I'm gonna die!"


I've done everything the Bible says, even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff! -- Ned Flanders

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Doddy
Member (Idle past 4294 days)
Posts: 563
From: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 01-04-2007


Message 14 of 61 (414915)
08-06-2007 10:10 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by GDR
08-06-2007 7:28 PM


GDR writes:

there is stuff going on that we know nothing about as we don't know what we don't know.


You're interpreting that the wrong way.

We don't know what we don't know. That is to say, that for all we know we could have a good grasp on reality, or we mightn't, but the important thing is that we don't know.

In order to know if we are missing part of the story, we need the full story. And in order to know if the full story is really full, we need the full story. We can't know.

Thus, I'd rewrite that as: "We can't know what we don't know".


Help to inform the public - contribute to the EvoWiki today!

We seek contributors with a knowledge of Intelligent design to expand and review our page on this topic.

Registration not needed for editing most pages (the ID page is an exception), but you can register here!


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GDR
Member
Posts: 5060
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 15 of 61 (414922)
08-06-2007 11:32 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Doddy
08-06-2007 10:03 PM


Doddy writes:

No, you can't conclude that from what was given in the story. What is his hit rate? Sure, he may have been present at 25 deaths, but how many deaths did he miss, and how many times did he curl up next to someone who didn't die? This information needs to be known before we can conclude an effect.
I think this is a clear case of confirmation bias, and I think the NEMJ should have pointed that out. I doubt people remember that the cat was there when the person lives, and I doubt they think of the cat if the cat wasn't there when a person dies. They only remember the hits, and forget the misses.

I first heard about this cat on the radio with one of the staff being interviewed. This staff member credited the cat with 100% accuracy.

wiki writes:

Oscar was adopted as a kitten from an animal shelter and grew up in the third-floor dementia unit at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. The unit treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses, most of whom are in the end stage of their illnesses (where death is imminent) and are generally unaware of their surroundings. Steere House bills itself as a "pet friendly" facility; no fewer than six pets reside at the facility, providing comfort to the patients.[1]

After about six months, the staff noticed that Oscar, just like the doctors and nurses, would make his own rounds. Oscar would sniff and observe patients, then curl up to sleep with certain ones. What surprised the staff was that the patients with whom Oscar would sleep would generally die within two to four hours after Oscar's arrival. One of the first cases involved a patient who had a blood clot in her leg that was ice cold at the time. Oscar wrapped his body around her leg and stayed until the woman died.[2] In another instance, the doctor had made a determination of impending death based on the patient's condition, while Oscar simply walked away, causing the doctor to believe that Oscar's streak (12 at the time) had ended. However, it would be later discovered that the doctor's prognosis was simply 10 hours too early – Oscar later visited the patient, who died two hours later.

Oscar's accuracy (currently standing at more than 25 reported instances) led the staff to institute a new and unusual protocol – once he is discovered sleeping with a patient, staff will call family members to notify them of the patient's (expected) impending death.

Most of the time the patient's family has no issue with Oscar being present at the time of death; on those occasions when he is removed from the room at the family's request, he is known to pace back and forth in front of the door and meow in protest. When present, Oscar will stay by the patient until he or she takes their last earthly breath – after which Oscar will sit up, look around, then depart the room so quietly that one barely notices.

Abilities aside, what makes his "last hour" companionship more puzzling is that Oscar is described by Dr. David Dosa as "not a cat that’s friendly to [living] people."[3] One example of this was described in his NEJM article. When an elderly woman with a walker passed him by during his rounds, Oscar "[let] out a gentle hiss, a rattlesnake-like warning that [said] 'leave me alone.

Doddy writes:

More likely, it is using the senses we do know about in a way that we don't know specifically. For example, it could be smelling ketone bodies produced as tissues break-down. Seems the author of that story has a similar idea, considering how many times "sniffs the air" was mentioned.

Maybe, or maybe not.


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

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